A justifiable punishment for QPR’s veteran defender?

A justifiable punishment for QPR’s veteran defender?

Rio Ferdinand’s on pitch efforts may be fairly limited these days, but that certainly hasn’t prevented him from dominating footballing headlines of late. The 35 year landed himself in hot water last week after a row on twitter that saw the Englishman use the term “sket” in response to a message suggesting that Harry Redknapp should be looking to find a new centre half.

The FA, who describe him as someone who “should know better”, has subsequently handed Ferdinand a three-match ban and a hefty fine of £25,000. Whether or not Rio appeals is another matter, but the FA’s Independent Regulatory Commission have themselves broken the silence on the matter:

“With nearly six million followers Mr Ferdinand is clearly an experienced Twitter user and he should know better than to respond in the way that he did.”

“It is said on his behalf that he is one of the most high profile sportsmen on Twitter and he is, without doubt, a role model for many young people, no doubt throughout the world.”

“His responsibility is therefore that much greater than many others.”

“Unfortunately there is no formal or direct admission and there is certainly no sign of remorse.”

This isn’t the first time that Ferdinand has been in trouble over his twitter account; back in 2012 he was again fined £45,00 by the FA for describing Ashley Cole as “choc ice” for his decision to defend John Terry during the latters trial at Westminster magistrates court.

Rio Ferdinand’s comments are undeniable crass and somewhat misguided, but are they really all that punishable?

We seem to find ourselves in an ever more sheltered and altogether more sensitive society these days. The notion of a personal freedom to engage and comment have been replaced by a new moral code that insists upon limiting offense at all costs.

Ferdinand’s riposte on twitter was hardly advisable, but then again should we really expect any better from someone with neither the intellect nor the temperament to deal with the daily taunts of the twitter community?

The FA’s onus here has very much been on Ferdinand’s responsibility as a role model, which to most reasonable folk seems understandable. Yet when you sit back and actually think about it, would anyone really want Rio Ferdinand cast as a role model for their own children? In any case is this a responsibility that Ferdinand has even had the opportunity to choose and himself accept? The FA’s decision to enforce their own moral compass is something that will only sterilise and taint the vibrancy that opinion and reaction bring to our game. If people feel let down by Ferdinand it is those people that are the ones that should know better.

The whole notion of offense here is an interesting one; a concept that in today’s world seems to be synonymous with apparent criminality. Ferdinand isn’t inciting religious hatred here, he has simply been reactive in a typically infantile way, and that is something that should be frowned upon but that equally shouldn’t be demonised. The media of late has been dominated by discussions as to whether the term ‘sket’ is either derogatory or potentially offensive; really it is a non-issue.

Whether you choose to take life lessons from Rio Ferdinand or not, that is really up to you, but clearly football seeks to benefit from the way social media allows our stars to interact with the fans in whichever way they see fit. Taking offense at someone’s comment or opinion is really just an irrelevance; it’s a fair reaction but doesn’t alone give anyone the right to force punishment upon someone else.

In the end the FA have laid down a marker here, an issue that they clearly want to deal with before in their eyes it gets out of hand.

But is there really an issue here to be dealt with?

Stephen Fry like with so many other things sums it all up perfectly:

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so f*cking what.”